Monday, January 13, 2014

Cold Weather Crisis!

I am not a superstitious person. Even though people say things happen in threes, I don't buy into that or any other superstition. Having said that, this will be my third consecutive post about the trouble winter has brought on for us, each one worse than the last. First we had our "snow day"; a school cancellation due to the ridiculously cold and intense weather we were having. That was on Monday last week. Then on Wednesday, Mike got his vehicle stuck in the deep snow and had to take mine, so I was without wheels for the day, causing Micah to miss a second day of school.

Here is the truth of the matter. Those two scenarios? Fun, followed by inconvenient. Yes, snow days are fun. Well, unless you're having one of those desperate days where you need your kids to be in school for the day. But we were not, and Mike got the snow day too, so that was an extra bonus for all of us. And then to have no vehicle for all of Wednesday? Technically that is inconvenient, but let me confess something to you. That day was nearly as cold as the Monday that school was cancelled, so I was secretly quite relieved to not have to drag myself, Micah and Lauren out. We enjoyed a stress-free day at home.

I wish I could say that our third predicament was as inconsequential as the first two. It was not. It still isn't. It happened on Thursday afternoon. When Mike got home from work, he asked me how long the septic pump had been running. I didn't know, though I thought maybe it had been a while. I don't generally consider it in my housewife duties to notice the mechanical functions in the house, so I don't really pay much attention to the pumps. Other than in a crisis, where I have been instructed to do so. Turns out it was a crisis. Our septic tank was not getting pumped out, though the pump was running. This set in motion an evening of frenzied activity, accompanied by the inability to let any water go down the drain. No baths for the boys or for Lauren. No dishes could be washed. No laundry could be done. Dare I mention flushing toilets? Excess water down the drain would cause the whole system to back up into our basement floor. Goody.

Because Mike is still somewhat incapacitated with his knee, I was the one who got to trek out in the snow to the ejector. (That's exactly what it sounds like.) The snow was over my knees, and I was falling all over the place. It was also dark, and I had to go quite far. It was not fun. My complete incompetence in all things plumbing did not help matters. I accomplished nothing other than filling Mike's winter boots with snow (I had to wear his because they are much taller than mine, and even still the snow was well above them), and getting a little exercise.

What happened that evening is a very long story. Let me sum it up like this. Mike's brother came over and was here until 1 a.m. trying to fix our system with Mike. They were not successful. We may have to dig up our entire system, a process that would likely cost thousands of dollars. They rigged a temporary fix, which will hopefully get us through the winter. Then we will have to implement some kind of permanent solution in the spring. The house smelled like sewage, though we did not get much backup in the basement, thankfully. All day Friday I still couldn't do laundry or dishes, not to mention shower. Everything is running now, though not in the best way. I won't describe the details in here. On the surface, everything seems the same, so life is back to normal, for now. We suspect our system froze under the ground, though that should never happen. With the extreme deep freeze this year, it is possible the frost level went deeper than normal under the ground. Who knows?

Anyway, I have two boys here, one of whom is beginning to act bored, and the other who I strongly suspect is into trouble in the basement. In addition to that, I have a girl who has boycotted her nap, yet again. So it's time for me to run. Here's hoping things really do happen in threes and I don't have another winter crisis to report in here.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Another Cold Weather Predicament

Our deep freeze rages on, and this morning winter brought on a new problem for our family. In all fairness, the weather is not the only factor at play in our current situation. It all started when Mike had his surgery. You see, he was unable to drive our tractor at that time, and as such, when snow came down, we had to rely on other people to bail us out, so to speak. I am happy to report that Mike is now capable of operating the tractor. The problem is, apparently it is broken, so his first (and only) time driving the tractor, he drove it straight to the farm, and there it has remained awaiting parts which are on order. He drove it there last Friday, I think. Whatever day it was, it was the day we were expecting a terrible winter storm. Indeed, the weather got ugly, and we got quite a bit of snow, which left us unplowed, with no tractor. 

Mike's dad and brother both offered to clear our driveway for us, but Mike didn't think we would need it. He figured we'd make it out okay until we got the tractor back, as long as it didn't snow. I was nervous about this, because I have been stuck with the van more than once, but Mike drove it in and out of here a few times with no problems. But the Subaru is parked at the bottom of our ridge, and as far as I can tell, the snow is worse down there. Mike made it out no problem yesterday, to drive the kids to the bus and then go to work. I asked him about it later and he said it was "no problem" and that the Subaru could "make it through anything". It has all wheel drive, you know. I didn't say anything, but I knew no all-wheel-drive vehicle could make it through everything

This morning, Mike went outside with Jamie and Cody to drive them to the bus. They left five minutes before the bus would get here, so I was more relaxed than I normally am when I'm watching out my bedroom window to make sure the boys don't miss the bus. I watched anyway, and minutes passed with no sign of Mike or the Subaru. So I ran to the living room window and looked out. Sure enough, the Subaru was stuck in the snow, quite badly. I was wearing my pyjamas, which was quite unfortunate, seeing the bottoms are capri-length, and I had no time to change. I threw on my ugly clunky winter boots, my jacket, my mitts and a toque, (no time for a scarf), and ran onto the deck and down the stairs, prepared to push them out of the snow bank. But when I got to the bottom, Mike told me to go start the van instead. We were down to less than two minutes to get to the bus. 

The poor van was not plugged in, as I was not supposed to need it until lunch time. I ran up the snowy hill in my boots, with my bare legs showing at the bottom of my capri pants, and fired up the van. It was NOT happy about starting. But it started. The boys ran over and climbed inside, fighting all the way. (Have I mentioned how pleasant mornings are around here?) The van barely chugged down the driveway but we made it to the bus just after it pulled up to wait for the boys. 

I drove it back home, expecting to push Mike out of the snow, but he said it was too badly stuck so he took the van to work. As a result, I have no vehicle today, and Micah had to stay home from school this afternoon. How ridiculous. The irony is, we don't even have a tractor to pull the Subaru out. Mike said we will get it out later, but I don't know what his plan is. I would like to try pushing it to see whether we can get it out without calling somebody for help. It takes a long time to drive a tractor over here and it is freezing cold out, so I don't want to ask anyone to do that. Right now, our windchill is sitting at -38 C, which is warm compared to earlier this week, but still dangerously cold. Ick. 

The amazing news is that tomorrow we will break free of these ridiculously cold temperatures and usher in at least a few days of mild weather, up in the single digits. I can't wait. But for today, I have an extra kid at home this afternoon. Happily, he is very sweet and is playing nicely by himself as Lauren naps. Today I have been enjoying the sweetest moments of motherhood, and I am thankful. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Day!

Today is the first day back at school for not only the kids, but also for Mike. At least, it was supposed to be. But here in Manitoba, we are in the middle of a deep freeze such as we have not seen for a long time, if ever before. Don't get me wrong; winters here are cold. We know that. We expect that. But usually the really unbearably cold part of the winter is starting right about now, and goes through to the middle or end of February. This year, we have been in a deep freeze for weeks already, and even November was much colder than usual for that time of year.

As such, we have had multiple days where the temperature with the wind chill has been well below -40, going as low as -51 at times. Yesterday was one of those days, with the wind chill somewhere around -49, and today we are there again. As a result, the boys' school division shut down for the day, seeing most of the kids are bussed in and the buses either won't run, or it is just too dangerous to travel in this kind of cold. As it happens, Mike is part of the same school division, so he is also home with us for the day. A bonus holiday. Some moms might be less than thrilled, having prepared to be childless for the day, but not me. Not today. I am relieved. My boys have a long walk home from the bus and I was concerned about these temperatures. Besides, this now means I don't have to drive Micah to Kindergarten at lunch time, so I don't have to go out there either. Phew!

My plan for the day? Well, I have some cleaning to do, which is super boring. I also plan to read; something I have been doing a lot of this holiday since I got sick. Yes, I did get the stomach bug, albeit three days later than the rest of my family, and it lasted five days for me. So I did lots of reading, and though I hate being sick, I must say it has been too long since I have read so much fiction and I am rather addicted once again. But that's beside the point. My adventure for the day will be a baking project.

Baking and cooking, particularly when it is a new recipe, are always an adventure for me. I am not really gifted in the kitchen. I have improved a lot since I got married 13 years ago, so I guess I can't in all fairness say that I can't cook, anymore. But I am not what you would call a natural when it comes to all things culinary. That's why today's project has me a little nervous. I'm making bagels. I made bagels once before, a long time ago, and it was okay. But these are New York style bagels...whatever that means. I got the recipe online, and I'm not going to lie to you: I am really excited about the final product. That is never a good thing. I keep picturing these perfectly shaped, perfectly smooth and golden bagels. I can almost smell them. I am picturing them piping hot out of the oven, and imagining my kids and husband beside themselves with pure joy at the taste of my culinary masterpiece.

This is where I always go wrong. Maybe if I didn't have such high hopes for how they would turn out... Well, I don't want to be disappointed. I have kind of made a big deal to the kids too about this secret treat I am making for them. As much as I hate cooking, I have to admit there is a small part of me that gets a real buzz out of making something delicious for my family to enjoy. Maybe that's why I hate cooking. More often than not, after I cook up something I think will be a hit, all I hear are complaints from the boys. I know that's normal, but there is absolutely no reward in that. I guess I like rewards.

My project has already started and the dough is rising in a slightly warm oven. In 40 minutes, I get to do the next step, which is forming the shape of the bagels. Crucial, I think. I'm nervous about it. After that, I have to boil them. A curious process, but thankfully, I have done it once before, and witnessed it once before that, so I know how to do it. I will finish this post later, once the bagels are complete. Maybe I will even post pictures. Maybe.

And the update? The bagels turned out quite nicely. They got a little darker than I hoped, and they were not perfectly shaped. But they were delicious. A bit of a crunchy exterior, and soft and chewy on the inside. They were a hit.


I kind of wish the recipe made more than eight, but then a bag of them at the store contains only six, so I guess this option is better. They took me a good two hours to make though. Perfect for a snow day. 

Anyway, it is supper time now, so time to sign off. If anyone wants to try the recipe, this is the one I followed:  http://www.sophisticatedgourmet.com/2009/10/new-york-style-bagel-recipe/